On the first Saturday in November, 2012, Terlingua, Texas will play host to the 46th incarnation of the Terlingua International Chili Championship. What began in 1967 as an invitational cookoff between two cooks, has now become a contest between 300-350 cooks who compete all year long in order to obtain a coveted invitation to participate in this International Championship. In fact, during the past 45 years, the cookoff has grown, and splintered into three cookoffs. Two are held in Terlingua on the same day in November (about 4 miles apart), but the largest in terms of number of contestants, and spectators is held at Rancho Casi de los Chisos, organized by the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI).Here's an exerpt from a report of the very first cookoff:
At precisely 11:43 of the clock on a fair October morning in 1967 two male humanoids stood on the veranda of a crumbling adobe building in the ghost town of Terlingua, Texas, and listened to the thump of a wooden spoon against an ancient copper washboiler.
The two combatants, each claiming to be the world's champion cooker of chili con carne, were of inharmonious physical dimensions. One was a citizen of Austin denominated Wickford P. Fowler, a man who would butcher at better than 250 pounds. He stood behind his pot as agent provocateur of the Chili Appreciation Society International, a local group in Dallas. All thing in Dallas are International, save only those that are Outer Spatial.
This second man was a trim, vibrant-looking, insouciant, velvet-voiced dashing fellow --... I have reference to me. [ H. Allen Smith, The Great Chili Confrontation]
The results of the first cookoff were reported by Gary Cartwright in an
article in Sports Illustrated, February, 1968.
According to legend, there were three judges. One declared in favor of Smith, One declared in favor of Fowler, and the third judge declared it a tie, and required everyone to return a year later to repeat the contest.
Over the past forty-five years, the date and exact location of the contest has changed from time to time, but it has always been close to Terlingua. By the 1980's, the date had been standardized. It's always on the first Saturday in November. In the 1990's CASI purchased 320 acres (1/2 square mile) about 4 miles west of the Terlingua ghost town, and the location was standardized. Since then, presentation stages, a permanent judging area, souvenier/beer stands, and a city hall have been built on the property. Rancho Casi de los Chisos can be divided into three areas: the cooks area; the Old 320 area; and the spectator's area (Krazy Flats). The Old 320 area is the main cooking arena, located immediately in front of the stage/dance floor. That's where most of the official cooking is done on Saturday morning. It's called the Old 320 area in honor of the 320 people who put up the money to buy the land. The cooks area surrounds the old 320 area, and is full of trailers and motorhomes of contestants. Krazy Flats occupies the area beyond the cook's area. It is the spectator's area.
People begin collecting on Rancho Casi de los Chisos about a week prior to TICC.
Cooks are immediately in front of the stage (red roof). Cooks are camped beyond the cooking arena, and spectators are camped beyond the cooks area.